Acne Treatment

tretinoin cream treatment for acne

Millions of people suffer from acne including both men and women and teenagers and adults. While milder cases of acne may respond well to over-the-counter treatments, there are many cases of stubborn acne where stronger treatments are required. OTC acne treatments are limited in the strengths that are available and in the combinations of active ingredients. A compounding pharmacy has the ability to provide higher-strength acne medication customized to an individual person.

There are many options available at a compounding pharmacy for acne treatment in customizable formulations. Products can be made for different skin sensitivities and skin types and also made to target particular kinds of acne.

What Causes Acne

Acne is caused by a combination of clogged pores, bacterial growth, and inflammation. Dead skin cells and sebum can mix and clog pores, which causes inflammation. Bacteria can form on the skin and inside clogged pores, which then grow and spread leading to an acne breakout. Products for treating acne will usually do one or more of the following:

  1. Exfoliate: Remove the dead skin cells and oil that clog pores and cause acne
  2. Eliminate bacteria: Acne-causing bacteria are killed or prevented from forming
  3. Reduce inflammation: Help with the redness and irritation that comes from acne

A person suffering from acne may also be given products to reduce post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which is discoloration left in the skin after acne has been treated. You can learn more about lightening creams for hyperpigmentation on our blog.

Acne Medication Ingredients

Some of the products listed here are often combined together into a cream, gel, or facial cleansing pad. Many of them are available in lower dose over-the-counter versions, but the higher strengths that are most effective can only be obtained with a prescription. Through a compounding pharmacy working with a dermatologist, an acne sufferer can benefit from having multiple effective ingredients in one prescription.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide kills acne-causing bacteria. It also exfoliates and dries out the skin, which makes it easier for oil and dirt to be washed away.

Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid clears away dead skin cells and dirt. It exfoliates the skin to stop pores from becoming clogged and prevents acne bacteria from growing.

Lactic Acid

Like other acids used in dermatology, lactic acid eliminates acne bacteria and clears away dead skin cells. It removes layers of damaged skin, which encourages new cell growth.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid exfoliates and removes blemishes. It is often used in face washes as it cleans pores while reducing redness. While many acne medication ingredients tend to cause inflammation, salicylic acid reduces acne while also minimizing skin irritation.

Tretinoin/Retinoic Acid

Tretinoin cream is a medication that can reduce acne flare-ups and help with other skin concerns. Tretinoin works by increasing the turnover of skin cells. By speeding up the process of renewal, damaged skin can be replaced with newer and clearer skin. Tretinoin and other retinoids are also used for treating sun damage, wrinkles, and pigmentation concerns.

Azelaic Acid

Azelaic acid cream kills acne-causing bacteria and stops the growth of new bacteria. It affects the growth of cells that line hair follicles as well, which helps keep pores from becoming plugged. Rosacea, which is characterized by facial redness and pimples, is commonly treated with azelaic acid cream because it reduces redness and inflammation. Our acne rosacea cream is able to treat both conditions and includes azelaic acid with niacinamide and retinoic acid.


Urea is a moisturizer that is sometimes combined with acne-fighting ingredients like benzoyl peroxide. Many medications that help with acne have a tendency to dry out the skin. Keeping the skin well-moisturized is important to prevent more acne breakouts and inflammation.


Clindamycin and sulfacetamide are antibiotics that stop acne-causing bacteria from forming. Combined with an ingredient like salicylic acid they are especially effective at clearing the skin.


Sulfur was one of the first treatments used for acne and many other skin conditions. Sulfur dries out the skin and helps slough off dead skin cells. It also has anti-microbial properties that make it great for treating acne. Acne medication with sulfur may be better for those with sensitive skin who are not able to tolerate products with acids or retinoids.

Sun Protection With Acne Medication

Most ingredients in acne medications will make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Proper sun protection is essential to get the best results from these medications. By going in the sun unprotected while using these products, you increase the risk of further damaging the skin and of getting new breakouts.

Acne Medication Delivery Methods

Acne treatments are often made into a cream or gel that is applied to the entire affected area once or twice per day. Medications are also made into facial cleansing pads. This is one of the best ways of applying acne medication to the face. The pad cleans the skin while delivering the acne medication evenly and consistently.

Examples of Facial Cleansing Pad Formulas:

Clear Face Pad: salicylic acid 2%, sulfacetamide 5%, clindamycin 0.5%

Daily Facial Pad: glycolic acid 1%, salicylic acid 1%, lactic acid 3%

Ultra Complexion Pads: glycolic acid 10%, salicylic acid 5%

Acne Treatments Customized to the Individual

Not every medication will work the same for each person. There are also many different kinds of acne and skin types. A dermatologist can customize a treatment regimen to an individual’s unique skin type and concerns. By using the services available from a compounding pharmacy dermatologists can help their patients can get clear, acne-free skin sooner.